Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Visit to Grimsthorpe Castle part 1

I enjoyed a lovely day out last Tuesday, with my friends Katy and Alison.  After a bit of research on where we could go, we plumped for Grimsthorpe Castle, which is about an hour away.  I had visited before, but six years ago, so was very happy to go again and had a two for one voucher, so off we went. I took lots of photos of the gardens, so will split them into two posts.
 The main front of the house is very grand and imposing, designed by Vanbrugh, who also designed Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard.  The figures in gold on the coat of arms are a monk on the left and a wild man on the right.
 The house towered above us.  I was intrigued by the massive columns.
 I felt they were an unusual design.  We went in by the front door and were given a very informative and fascinating tour by Beryl, who was extremely knowledgeable and hardly seemed to draw breath!  Photos were allowed in the house, but I made up for that outside!
Yes, I do like a view through a door or a gate.  The gold figure here is a saracen.
 The gardens are around the house and are created in different 'rooms'. This is the rose garden.
 The older part of the house can be seen here, with the crenellations.  It reminded me of one of my favourite historic houses, Haddon Hall, near Bakewell.
 Another view from the rose garden showing the older and newer parts of the house.
 We went through to the kitchen garden which was very impressive.  Topiary and pots of agapanthus were used as eye catchers.
 Flowers and vegetables were planted together.
 The onions were drying in the sun.
 Looking down through the vegetable.  I particularly liked the agapanthus and decided I needed to put one on my wish list!
Now and again, there was a lovely view of the house.  The garden did give me the feeling of being in Wonderland and I half expected the Red Queen to appear round the corner at any moment and demand a game of croquet!
Looking back into the vegetable garden.  The final arch had raspberries growing up it which was a lovely idea.  Part two of the visit will follow...

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Feeling much happier - Christmas in July Swap 2015

You may remember that I took part in the Christmas in July swap, run by Kim at Wisdom with needle and thread and today was the opening day! The idea was to make three Christmas things from a list, and then send them to someone whose name and address was emailed to you, but without them knowing who was their Secret Santa - until they opened their parcel.  I received my parcel in very good time and waited patiently until today to open it up.  Inside were three carefully wrapped  presents.
Here's what was inside.  A card and Christmas picture inside the card, a wooden Rudolf the red nosed reindeer, a red heart and a cross stitched decoration, which could be used as a pin cushion, although I don't think I could bear to stick pins in it!  I discovered that my Secret Santa was June.
The beautifully made cross stitch decoration.  I know I wouldn't have the patience or skill to create this!
 The bright and cheerful red heart.
 The Rudolf decoration.
 The card within a card.
The Christmas Card which gave me the identity of my Secret Santa.  A HUGE thank you goes to June for her lovely gifts, which I shall love displaying on the Christmas Tree each year.  Thanks to Kim, the organiser, as well, for organising, keeping in touch and keeping us on track!
 Of course, Scruffy decided to have a closer look at the parcel - "Hmm, I think I shall just have these for myself! If I sit on them, she can't get them!"
 "I told you, they're mine.  You can't have them!" (I have since removed them from harm's way!)
My recipient was Nina, from Turkey (and I hope she doesn't see this before she opens her gift!). Here's what I sent her: red and white bunting (some with reindeer patterns!), some polymer clay decorations with peace, joy and love stamped on them. and a felt star with embroidery.
(I added some non-Christmassy things too, just for the fun of it.  A notebook cover with felt flower, a pair of sterling silver, quartz and pearl earrings and a coloured quartz bracelet.)
Here were my gifts ready to be packaged up.  The parcel arrived, so I shall wait to see what she thinks.  It was a lovely swap to be involved with and I really enjoyed making the gifts and enjoying the anticipation and excitement of the build up to today.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Feeling a bit sad...

I was going to write a blog post about a lovely visit to Grimsthorpe Castle earlier this week and I shall still do that, just not tonight.
I was watering the pots in the garden and went to the front of the house to water the hanging basket, only to find that the gate was open and the hanging basket was gone.  In twenty-two years of living here, I have not had any problems like this and have always enjoyed seeing the hanging basket brightening up the front of the house.  It was there when we came back from work and shopping, so the person stole it while we were at home, which somehow makes it worse.  The hanging basket was only a plastic one, just had petunias in it and in the great scheme of things, it doesn't really matter, but the fact that someone would steal it has upset me.
I don't put any plants out at the front of the house that are expensive, or really special, but I was naive enough to think that they would be enjoyed by people, without being stolen.
So, I have two choices.  I can either not have a basket out there again and deprive myself of the pleasure, or I can take a deep breath and find a basket or trough which can be fixed to the wall and then plant that up.  I think I know which I shall be doing!
I hope that my next post will be on a more positive note.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Learning New Things

 I have been learning some new crafting techniques - this time, stamps, embossing powder and a heat gun.  I have been investigating the internet for 'how to' videos (of which there are many, as you'd imagine) and decided to have a go.  This technique wouldn't work with polymer clay due to the direct heat required, but as I already had lots of different stamps and some pigment ink pads, I thought, why not try?  I can use the technique for cards, tags, and decorating notebooks (all useful for blog swaps and birthdays!).  Above is an embossed stamp pattern (the embossing powder when heated forms a raised surface), painted with iridescent acrylic paint (Pebeo Studio Acrylic Iridescent).  The magic happens when the light hits the paint in a certain way and the metallic element shines out.
 Hmm, I may have to be a little more careful where the paint goes as I seem to have gone over the lines a bit!  The gold paint looks very shiny here.
 Here are some of the gorgeous paint colours.  The paint covers well and is nice and thick, but can be thinned with water as required.
 Even the water used to wash the brush gets some added sparkle.
 Here are a couple of hummingbird stamps, embossed and then painted with the acrylic paints.
 I really like the blues and greens, but then I would!  I am looking forward to more experimenting with black background paper and other stamps as I  really enjoy learning new skills.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

A Riot of Roses!

Collages created from my photos using picmonkey
So far, 2015 has been a wonderful year for roses here in my garden.  I have managed to squeeze twenty-two into my garden, adding to the collection over the years.  There is a pale pink theme going on, but this wasn't a conscious decision - it was mainly about the scent.  I have got one yellow rose and I have added some white and deeper pinky red this year, mainly in pots.  Most of them are in flower now and I am really enjoying the colours and perfumes.
Above top row from left to right: Gertrude Jekyll; Mary Rose: Cottage Rose
Middle row: Jacques Cartier; Ferdinand Pichard; Constance Spry
Bottom row: Chandos Beauty; Bright as a Button; Blush Noisette
Just a few more...
Clockwise top left to right: New Dawn; Diamond; Rosa Gallica Versicolor (Rosa Mundi); Frilly Cuff.
Diamond was my most recent purchase, just last week, and this is its first flower.  It is a miniature rose with a slight scent but is covered in buds.
 I do enjoy the garden when the roses bloom!

Monday, 29 June 2015

A Catch Up

 You may have noticed that my blog has been a little garden-focused this year.  This was pointed out to me by a friend who said "Another garden post?" in a voice which implied it would be nice to have something else instead.  So, I thought I would do that today.  Above is a memory wire bracelet I made as a commission, but I think I will have to make one for myself too.  I used lapis lazuli, sodalite, rainbow moonstone, pearls, and blue fire agate.  I have also made myself a pair of rather baggy long shorts to wear around the house and in the garden (not to go out in!), but haven't got a photo to show you.
In other news, I have been experimenting with Flitterglu (Flake and Glitter glue, in case you are wondering), which can be put onto a stamp, then stamped onto baked polymer clay, then gilding flakes applied onto the glue, then wiped off, to leave a pattern.  The glue is a bit like PVA, but stays tacky, so it doesn't matter if you need to go and do something else as you can come back to it.  It can also be used on lots of other materials such as wood or card, and can be used on fabric, although if gilding flakes are used, the fabric can't then be washed.
I particularly liked the writing, which has worked very well.  A lot of detail can be picked up by the gilding flakes, which creates some lovely patterns.
Apologies for the flash glare in this picture - but it does show the gilding flakes well.  
 This was an experiment on a white background, which I didn't think worked as well as the darker colours.
I'm doing reasonably well with my reading challenge (to read all the books in the photo above before I buy any more books).  The reading has gone well, but the 'not buying any more books' has not lasted!
I haven't yet read The Last Pre-Raphaelite, but have read and really enjoyed the other books shown here. The Lost Pre-Raphaelite began as delving into the history of the author's recently bought house, but developed into a mystery about the life and family of a painter who lived there and it was an engrossing hypothesis.  
The Beverley Nichols trilogy was a joy and delight - houses, cats and gardens, with various odd acquaintances putting in an appearance throughout.
 I have also read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which was unsettling but an incredible first novel and a cleverly created parallel world.  I have also enjoyed the BBC adaptation of the book, despite some small divergences from the story, but I shall definitely read the book again.
 I am currently on 'Colour: Travels through the Paintbox' which is fascinating.  For instance, did you know that the colour 'Mummy Brown' actually contained ground up Mummies?  No, nor did I until I read this book!  I had been putting it off because I thought it looked a little hard going, but, in fact, it is easy to read, well written and really interesting.  I wish I could remember a few more of the fascinating facts the author reveals...
I have also been very busy with a 'Christmas in July' swap (three handmade Christmas things from a list), which is also a Secret Santa, where the recipient does not know who is making gifts for them.  I shall be posting my parcel this week and on the 25th July, or thereabouts, we will all be opening our presents, so I shall share my makes and what I received then. It is exciting to think that somewhere in the world, someone is busy making gifts for me too!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

More Open Gardens 2015

It was Open Gardens at my mum's village last Sunday, so we went along to support them.  We had lovely sunny weather in which to enjoy walking round the village.  These first three photos show the amazing clematis at one of the gardens (it was my favourite, partly because it was very romantic and exuberant, with lots of roses and clematis).  
 The clematis plants were so healthy and full of flowers.  The owner said that she didn't feed them and hadn't done anything to them except prune annually.
 They must be exceptionally happy in her garden.
 Another garden had a border full of delphiniums,  I always admire these plants, but can't grow them in my garden, due to the slug and snail population.
 This was the verge opposite one of the houses, full of wildflowers.
Chris and I both enjoyed the wooded area in this garden.  It was a rented house and the current occupier told us he would love to buy it.  The main part of the garden led out onto a meadow and then to this wooded area, with wild roses dotted amongst the trees.
 It was a magical place.  I loved the way the shadows were cast by the trees in these photographs.
As a contrast to the informality, this garden displayed the owner's care, attention, hard work and love of formality with an impressive vegetable plot.  He was growing an enormous number of peas - obviously his family really enjoy them!  On the other side of the garden, to the right of the photograph, there was a flower garden too, which again was extremely well tended and cared for.
It really struck me how much the gardens reflected their owners - I wonder what my garden says about me?!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

British Flower Week 2015

Photo from http://www.britishflowersweek.com/blog/
Just in case you weren't aware, this week is British Flowers Week, which is a 'week long celebration of British flowers and the UK cut flower industry'.  The dress above was made by Zita Elze, using larkspur.  not very practical, but absolutely stunning! Wouldn't it look lovely printed on chiffon? Of course, I do have some flowers in my own garden which I feel should be celebrated (although usually, I don't need a special week!), so without further ado, may I introduce...
Rose Frilly Cuff, new to me this year and planted in a pot.  The colour is a bit deeper than this in real life and it has a delicate fragrance.  I wanted to add some deeper colours of roses to my garden, as all the others seem to be pale pink, apart from one yellow.  This one has a beautiful colour and form.
Nigella or Love in a Mist.  I have always loved these flowers and remember them growing in every garden from my childhood.  I sowed seeds in the border, but the plants decided they would rather sow themselves in pots, which is what they did.  They are so lovely, I left them to grow where they wanted.
I have some nice shades of blues and whites in the Nigella.
My favourite rose, Gertrude Jekyll, with the most delicious fragrance.
A new rose again this year, Bright as a Button, a floribunda type, which has a very open flower and is again in a pot.  
The star of the week just has to be Oriental Poppy 'Checkers' which I grew from seed and which features annually on my blog.  I was concerned that the flowers would be totally battered by the heavy rain we had at the weekend, so dashed out to take a photo last Friday, just in case they were reduced to a soggy mass.
The flowers start off a very pale pink and then whiten as they age.  I'm pleased to say that they have survived the rain and are still looking lovely today.
There are more roses to come, with several new ones too and I shall also post a photo of the white peony if its buds open.
I hope British Flowers Week is a great success!